The Butcher

Hocks, spareribs, and chops

Remember our pig? Well, we finally got the call. It was to let us know that it had just arrived at the butcher shop and was to be slaughtered the next day. Harry, who raised the pigs on his family’s farm told me to call the butcher and book a time for us to go in and have it broken down.

I was a little overwhelmed because we’re really busy these days. I didn’t feel like I had enough time to think through what we wanted from this pig. I rewatched butchering videos and frantically asked everyone I knew about what cuts to get.

For all the worry of making the wrong decision with such a beast, there was a simple answer–a good, experienced butcher. When I arrived at Townsend Butchers, I met Dave Miedema, who has been breaking down animals for longer than I’ve been alive. He asked me a few questions, and we were soon on our way through our 220lb pig.

The back fat being separated and saved for rendering down into lard

First, I of course saved all the fat–back fat and leaf lard. We’ve been told leaf lard makes pie crust fit for a king, so we’re excited to actually try it without any hydrogenation. The rest of the back fat will be used as a general cooking fat.

Three quarters of the belly went to be cured and smoked for bacon and the other quarter was kept fresh. I kept one of the jowls, or cheeks (much bigger than I imagined!) to be cured as guanciale, which is like a fattier (if that’s possible) bacon. Both hams were cut in half and smoked.

We decided to not stress ourselves out with this pig. As much as I wanted to, we didn’t make our own bacon, smoke our own hams, or cure pounds of charcuterie. We’re in the middle of renovations and it wouldn’t have been the smartest thing. So we decided to pick one thing–sausage. The butcher shop took care of the bacon and hams, and we left with thirty pounds of fresh ground pork.

So far, the little pork we’ve eaten from our pig is great. Being a Berkshire, it’s a little fattier than what we’re used to, but this only makes the meat taste better. Visiting the butcher and sorting all of this out was a bit of a meat overload, but we now have a freezer filled with organic, pastured, locally-raised pork to take us through the year.


  • great post! i worked in my brother in laws slaughter house a few years ago and learned all the cuts…and how much better any animal tastes once you have raised it yourself. we will be getting our pigs shortly and the new baby chicks will be here in a few weeks. enjoy your fresh pork:)

  • Amazing! My finance and I contemplated buying a half hog through our CSA share this year, but with just the two of us that is a lot of pork. I really love seeing people get excited about a whole animal butchering. It is so important as meat eaters to understand that a pig is more that just bacon, or ham, and wait till you try that piecrust, you will never go back!

  • I'd love to work up to butchering an animal myself one day, but we're very fortunate to have a few great small butchers in our area that will let you come right in and get you what you're looking for.

  • We split this one with my parents, but a half is still a lot of meat! Find someone else to split it with!

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